It has long been regarded as Scotland’s national drink. But now, a growing number of whisky distilleries are opening south of the Border, with the number of new spirits manufacturing facilities rocketing in England and Wales over the past five years.
Official figures from HMRC showed that 42 more distilleries making a range of spirits are open now than in 2013. Of the new distilleries, 20 were in Scotland, 22 were in England, four in Wales and another three in Northern Ireland.
Trade body the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the figures were not broken down into types of drink, but said that whisky distilleries are increasingly opening in England and Wales.
The figures showed that 149 distilleries are now online in Scotland compared with 90 in 2010 – a two-thirds increase.
The WSTA added that the boom in gin sales – which has seen a record number of bottles of gin sold last year, with an estimated 95 different gin brands now on the UK market, has contributed to the increase – but said that whisky making was becoming increasingly popular in England and Wales. More than 47 million bottles of gin have been sold in the UK in the last 12 months, up seven million bottles on the same period a year ago.
UK distillery openings have gone up 172 per cent from 116 since 2010 when the WSTA first started collecting the data – adding 199 in just seven years. The region showing the most rapid growth is England which in 2010 had only 23 distilleries but grew to 135 in 2017, accounting for 56 per cent of all UK openings in the last eight years.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, pointed to research which states that since 2010 the number of Scotch brands in the UK market has more than doubled to 246 from 119.
He said: “It is welcome news that another 49 new distilleries opened in the UK last year, bringing new jobs to the British spirit industry and helping boost Britain’s export potential.
“There is a significant amount of investment going in to the British spirits industry and the Chancellor’s welcome boost [duty was frozen in the November Budget] is likely to see this trend continue into 2018 – as well as broadening out into new variations of English and Welsh whisky.”
He added: “Gin is the key driver behind the surge in new distillery openings in the UK in the last five years.”
Ciaran Myles, WSTA head of research and insights, said that some newer distilleries are currently selling gin, but are also waiting for their whisky to mature.
He said: “While no-one should assume that there are many who are out solely to make great gin and lots of it, there are incidents of gin producers making gin but also biding their time until the brown stuff is ready for sale.”